State: Get flu shot|H1N1 outbreak over by time shot is available?

Published 2:34 am Wednesday, September 9, 2009

By By Kerry Whipple Bean

When it comes to the flu, state health officials have some simple pieces of advice about both seasonal flu and H1N1 influenza: Stay home if you are sick, and get vaccinated.
If historical models are accurate, the current statewide outbreak of H1N1 flu could be nearing its end when the vaccine for the disease becomes available, health officials said Tuesday.
But state health office Dr. Don Williamson encouraged everyone to get the vaccine in case those models are not accurate or in case there is another outbreak of the disease this winter.
Historical evidence shows that a flu outbreak typically lasts about two months, he said. While some states have not yet seen an outbreak of the disease, Alabama has had children in school for about a month — and that has been one of the factors in spreading the disease, Williamson said.
In fact, the absentee rate in schools across the state has been about double what it normally is for the entire year, said state schools Superintendent Dr. Joe Morton.
Escambia County has recorded 12 diagnosed cases of H1N1 flu, according to the Department of Public Health Web site, but most doctors are not even testing specifically for H1N1 anymore. Instead, they are giving a general flu test.
Schools will be used as mass vaccination centers beginning in October, an effort Williamson described as the “largest vaccination effort in state history.”
The state has also been organizing some volunteer nurses to help in the vaccination plan.
Williamson also encouraged Alabama residents not only to get an H1N1 vaccination when they become available, but also to get a seasonal flu vaccine.
The state is expecting to have enough H1N1 vaccines to administer them to anyone who wants one. The age groups most at risk are children and young adults; pregnant women; and anyone with a compromised immune system.
To date, the state is investigating four deaths as being possibly related to the H1N1 flu.
A Troy University student died Friday after having previously been diagnosed with the disease.
Williamson said statistics show that about 70 percent of the deaths related to H1N1 have occurred in people with underlying medical conditions.
He encouraged anyone who is sick to stay home from school or work — and from athletic events, for that matter — but also said that anyone who feels ill does not necessarily have to go to the hospital.

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